Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Patterns we Weave

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved on stone monuments but what is woven into the lives of others." –Pericles

Tonight as I was working at TYM (Total Youth Ministry- the youth group at the parish I work for), I found myself looking around at the faces of these wonderful kids that I’ve gotten to know in the last couple years. I fought back tears as I realized that tonight was my last normal TYM night. Next week is May Crowning and the week after I won’t be able to make it because of finals week. After tonight, I will never again get to experience my small group with my wonderful kids (Juniors rock!). Also (and no less importantly), I will never again get to hear my wonderful fellow Core Team members give a talk about things that are so important to them (Aaron did a great job with JPII). This is an end to a very important, life changing chapter in my life and as excited as I am to move on, I find myself grieving to see it go.

I found myself looking back to the first time I met these guys and being amazed at how much has changed. Almost two years ago now, I walked nervously into Jason’s office looking for a boss and met this crazy, energetic guy who has now become a very dear friend. Then, I came (late) to a Core team meeting and met some of my dearest friends. Patty, Travis, Brenda, Allison, Aaron… I thank God for you. Then I came to my first TYM night and was greeted with a hug from Meeri, who assured me that we would be friends and she would show me around (she was right), and I met all these wonderful teens who are so precious and so unaware of their great worth. I started down that path then because I was lost and in pain from a broken heart and in need of healing, and now, now I can honestly say that these people helped me heal. In spite of the frustrations from trying to juggle TYM with the rest of my life (academics, clubs, my other job), I have never been so happy as I am when I’m there. I come back home on Wednesday nights and I’m on a high like nothing else. It’s an exhausted high sometimes, but still a high.

I know that I will have new students wherever I go next year, and I know that I will probably love them, too. It’s not a competition of the old versus the new. No matter what I find in Indianapolis next year, I will be sad to be away from these kids. I want to see how they grow, what they do, who they become. I’ve watched some of them change and go from being obnoxious kids to being beautiful young adults, some of whom posses a simple wisdom that an academic like me could learn a lot from. I brag about them all the time. I remember distinctly in my Echo interview saying that my students were often the center of my life (and they actually accepted me?)! I feel guilty for leaving them (something that a few of them are happy to exploit!). But tonight as I was working on homework, I found this quote from Pericles: "What you leave behind is not what is engraved on stone monuments but what is woven into the lives of others." I hope that I have woven something good into their lives, both my kids' and my comrades'. I know that they have woven a beautiful pattern into mine.

So, here’s to the patterns that we weave. May they be beautiful and colorful and strong. And may those threads hold us together when we’re apart.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Quick Note: Fortune Cookies, Easter, Prayer Requests and Mandy's Audition for the X Factor

I just ate a fortune cookie. My fortune said, "Follow your dreams." Thank you, Mr. Fortune Cookie, I think I'll do just that.

Aside from fortune cookies, there's a lot going on. Easter was two days ago and I enjoyed my first (and last) Easter here at UD. I went to the Vigil Mass at the Church of the Incarnation, where I have been working for four years now. After Mass (which was beautiful, I think that's the most I've ever enjoyed an Easter Mass), a bunch of my buddies and I had Praise and Worship. I really love that! After P&W, we went to Ihop- David, Jill, Michael, and I all went.

Easter was spent mostly with the Ponikiewskis, which is the best way to spend a day, in my own humble opinion. I was so grateful that they took me in and let me be a part of their family. They have been such a blessing to me the last couple years.

Now I'm in the midst of insanity as I'm struggling to finish up the semester. I translated five chapters tonight and have another four before being where I need to be. I have tons of reading to do as well. Most importantly, I have the high school retreat to get ready for this weekend (my last at HFN) and I have talks to prepare for that.

So, I'd like to make a quick prayer request in case anyone is reading this: Please pray for a) Edmund Ponikiewski, that he continues to heal and can come home soon; b) the Contagious Retreat this weekend, that we are able to reach out to the students and meet them where they are, bringing Christ into their lives; c) For my cousin, Amanda, who is auditioning for "The X Factor" tomorrow (a talent-style show with Simon from American Idol); d)For all UD seniors and professors, that we are able to get done what we need to get done as well as we possibly can before deadlines kick in.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Thoughts on Justice

"Let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream." -Amos 5:24

This is one of my favorite verses and I think that I've been musing on it recently without realizing it. I have a bumper sticker on my guitar case that says, "If you want peace, work for justice." Walking around with something like that for everyone to see has made me question myself about what I really think that justice is. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, justice is "a moral quality or habit which perfects the will and inclines it to render to each and to all what belongs to them." This, of course, leads to Catholic Social Teaching, which has always been important to me. But it's a far cry from how we often hear the word "justice" used in modern America. I know that in my hometown, there are many who defend the death penalty as a way of serving justice. It seems to me that "justice" has become just another synonym for "revenge."

To me, justice is so much more. I am going to insert here what the USCCB (the US Conference of Catholic Bishops) has to say on Catholic Social Teaching. For those who have been wondering what it really means to be a missionary or a minister or simply what it means when we say to "work for justice," here is what the leaders of the Catholic Church in America have put forth (for more info, go to


The Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society. Modern Catholic social teaching has been articulated through a tradition of papal, conciliar, and episcopal documents. The depth and richness of this tradition can be understood best through a direct reading of these documents. In these brief reflections, we highlight several of the key themes that are at the heart of our Catholic social tradition.

Life and Dignity of the Human Person
The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is being threatened by cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty. The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society—in economics and politics, in law and policy—directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.

Rights and Responsibilities
The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities--to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.

We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.”1 The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.

Care for God’s Creation
We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.